August 23, 2008

Grand Jury recognises a Woman's Right to Self-Defense

Grand jury refused to indict Donyel Hormats of murder charge, concluding that she acted in self-defense in the fatal stabbing of a man who tried to force her to work as a prostitute for him. Some details from The Oregonian:

Hormats told authorities she was carrying a hunting knife for protection because she had been assaulted on Southeast 82nd Avenue two nights earlier by Christopher Darrell Richardson.

Portland police say Richardson, 21, originally from Los Angeles, was involved in a gang, and officers are noticing a nexus between gang activity and street prostitution along Southeast 82nd Avenue.


Hormats told authorities she had sprayed Richardson with mace and ran Aug. 13 after he grabbed her on Southeast 82nd Avenue and tried to get her to work for him.

Hormats was charged with attempted prostitution and prostitution procurement that night on Southeast 84th Avenue and Yamhill Street and reported the assault to police.

Two nights later, Hormats told police she was sitting on the curb on Southeast Morrison Street, near 82nd Avenue, about 8 p.m. when a car full of people drove by, then suddenly backed up.

According to Hormats' lawyer, Barry Engle, one person in the car shouted at Hormats, "I'll teach you!" Richardson was among three or four people who got out of the car and approached Hormats. She ran but said Richardson grabbed her arm and swung her around. Another man punched her in the back of the head.

Hormats told police she then stabbed Richardson once in the chest with her hunting knife. He died at a local hospital later that night.


Portland police say they're hoping to increase penalties for women and johns who are frequently arrested, and finding ways to connect the women to social services. One idea is to have the courts move the cases out of community court, where they now land, and put the offenders under supervised probation, Golliday said.

Hello Portland Police? Donyel reported her assault on August 13, and all you did was to arrest her? Clearly, something is not working with the current approach to crimes in the 82nd Avenue area, and it's not that the penalties are too light for the women charged with prostitution.

August 20, 2008

Support Donyel Hormats--Everyone deserves to be safe

Yesterday's The Oregonian has an article about the incident that took place on SE 82nd Avenue last week in which a man was stabbed and killed by a woman with a history of prostitution arrests. The article goes:

A young woman who was picked up on prostitution-related charges last Wednesday is now behind bars, accused of fatally stabbing a man she said was trying to get her to work for him as a streetwalker on Southeast 82nd Avenue.

Police say Donyel Helen Hormats, 19, stabbed Christopher Darrell Richardson, 21, once in the chest shortly after 8 p.m. Friday on Southeast 82nd Avenue near Morrison Street. He died later in the evening at a hospital.

Hormats told authorities she was carrying a knife for protection because she had been assaulted the previous night. She now faces one count of murder, and was arraigned in Multnomah County Circuit Court on Monday. In Hormats' booking photo, her right eye is black and blue.

Friday night, Richardson flagged down Portland officers after he was stabbed. He was taken to OHSU Hospital, where he died. Hormats was at the scene when police arrived. Investigators suspect she may have acted out of self-defense, but a Multnomah County grand jury will decide whether to issue an indictment when it hears the case later in the week. Hormats is due back in court Aug. 26.

Investigators say Richardson either was trying to pimp Hormats, or give her trouble for competing with women he was pimping on the avenue.

Hormats had been arrested two nights earlier, at 5:50 p.m. Wednesday at Southeast 84th Avenue and Yamhill Street. She was accused of attempted prostitution and prostitution procurement.

Richardson, a Los Angeles native, had prior felony convictions. On June 20, Gresham police stopped him after he allegedly threatened another man with a gun near the MAX platform at Southeast 181st Avenue and Burnside. They seized a .357 revolver from him. Police reports say he had the gun tucked behind his back in his waistband. He was accused of being a felon in possession of a firearm and unlawful use of a firearm.

On July 30, he bailed himself out of jail and was on pretrial supervision. He had convictions for third-degree escape, third-degree robbery and second-degree theft.

Some neighbors quickly declared this incident as yet another reason Prostitution Free Zone should be reinstated immediately. But before citing this incident as a poster child for PFZ, we should take Ms. Hormats' story more seriously. She acted in self-defense against a man who pestered her in attempt to pimp her, a man who was known to carry a concealed weapon illegally and was unafraid to pull it out on others. And she stabbed just once--which clearly shows that she was not the aggressor, and that she only did what it took to protest herself. We should be glad that she was not the one to end up dead, and she certainly should not be charged with murder.

Would PFZ have prevented this incident? Probably not. In fact, displacing someone like Ms. Hormats makes them less safe and more vulnerable to violence and exploitation. It also make it much harder for social service agencies to reach out to the people who need it the most.

But there is one thing we can agree with the proponents of PFZ, which is that the current official response to prostitution is indeed inadequate. Ms. Hormats was in police custody just a day before the incident, yet nobody assisted her to be safe from the would-be pimp who won't leave her alone. It's very sad that she had to rely on a knife to protect herself because our communities had abandoned her. 

We will keep an eye on this case, and explore what we can do to support Ms. Hormats in her struggle with the criminal justice system. Her next court date is set to August 26th.

August 19, 2008

FACT: Crime Decreased in Montavilla after the Repeal of PFZ

Montavilla In Action states that "we the citizens around 82nd Avenue are having our safety compromised each + every day." Since prostitution between consenting adults does not directly compromise any bystander's safety (although it may be uncomfortable for them to witness it on the street), it must mean that the presence of prostitution is attracting other crimes. Is it true? Here's the chart based on Portland Police Bureau's numbers.

Remember, PFZ was terminated in September 2007, so datapoints before third quarter of 2007 represent the period PFZ was in effect; three most recent quarters (2007 Q4, 2008 Q1, and 2008 Q2) are for the post-PFZ era. As you see, there is no major increase in any crime category except for prostitution, and even that is still lower than the figure in some quarters during the time PFZ was in place.

When you look at all crimes, there were 169.86 incidents per month between January 2006 to September 2007, and 138.67 incidents per month between October 2007 and June 2008, which means that the crime went down by approximately 18% since the repeal of PFZ in Montavilla neighbourhood. No, we aren't saying that the repeal caused the decline--but it certainly didn't cause any incrase.

August 17, 2008

Tentatively Starting...

Last September, City of Portland "expired" Drug Free Zone and Prostitution Free Zone because a report indicated that they resulted in rampant racial profiling. The "Zones" allowed police officers to issue exclusion orders prohibiting someone from large parts of our city for mere suspicion that she or he was engaging in drug- or prostitution- related activities. Civil liberties advocates and social justice activists welcomed the repeal of the "Zones."

But recently, some residents of Montavilla, Mt. Tabor and other neighborhoods along the 82nd Avenue began waging a massive campaign to demand the reinstatement of Prostitution Free Zone amid what they perceive to be a major resurgence of prostitution activity in the area. While we are sympathetic to their concerns for safety for their families, we oppose the scapegoating of the women and men who engage in prostitution--who are themselves doing what they can to support and protect their families.

In the coming weeks and months, we hope to get organized better and disseminate information and opinions through this blog. In the meantime, we invite fellow 82nd area residents and our allies elsewhere to join our announcement list at 82ndCARES Coalition Google Group.